Jan 28: Although this was already expected, the Maharashtra Cabinet approved the sale of wine in supermarkets in the State this morning, which are over 1,00 sq. mtrs., according to the Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik. A few other relaxations may be in the pipeline and one has to wait for the gazette notification, writes Subhash Arora who feels the sales of domestic wines will grow by about 20% annually, benefitting the smaller producers more but increasing sales of bigger ones too in Maharashtra
As already announced, the government will charge a nominal excise duty of Rs 10 per bottle on all domestically produced wines. This will bring in a marginally increased Rs 50 million revenue for the state but will help the excise administration have a better control of the records and the amount of wine bottles sold in the market. The grocery store/ Supermarket will be charged a nominal annual license fee of Rs. 5,000 a year.
Majority of wines have very low content as compared with spirits. Several restaurants and bakeries use wine in cooking too. The producers expect that the easier availability and convenience for the women shoppers will add 20-30% to the annual sales though the numbers could be more conservative, at least in the initial years.
The existing excise wine policy, which allows sale of wine through exclusive liquor stores holding licenses, has been in force for the last 20 years (2001-2011 and extended further till 2021). The policy has been scrapped and the revised policy takes immediate effect.
Maharashtra has around 45 operational wineries. Of these, between 15 and 20 units directly market products, while the rest are only manufacturers, making bulk wines or leased to the bigger wineries for their requirement.
The wine industry has a turnover of around Rs 1,000 crore (Rs. 10 billion) in India, of which 65% is only from Maharashtra. A vast majority of these wineries are located in Nashik which produces around 80% of India’s wine and is known as the wine capital of India. This is followed by Sangli, Pune, Solapur, Buldhana and Ahmednagar.
The current sale of 700,000 liters per year in the state is expected to go up to 1 million liters under the new liberalised policy for retail sale, according to the Free Press Journal.
The genesis of this Vanguard Policy goes back to a small Maharashtra wine producer who wishes to remain anonymous. ‘During the first Lockdown I used to visit the excise department every week for about 6 months to meet the Deputy Commissioner Excise ‘who is very intelligent, analytical and open-minded. I used to interact with him regularly-almost once a week. He understood the logic of selling wines in the grocery stores because they are low alcohol food products and the policy change would really benefit the smaller producers, helping them survive. AIWPA also joined in the efforts, leading to this positive cabinet decision, with many corollary decisions are part of the policy,’ he shares with delWine on condition of anonymity,
A few of such decisions are opening of wine bars for a nominal annual fee of Rs. 10,000. They will also be allowed to taste and sell the wine from these bars. Currently, an FLBR-2 license is issue at Rs. 350,000 a year for selling wine and beer in Supermarkets like Nature’s Basket and Food Halls, without tasting. The designated area to store wines will be restricted to 2.25 cubic meters, making grocery stores at least 1000 sq. ft. welcome the policy.
Other expected decisions are reduction of one-day license fee from Rs. 20,000 a day to Rs. 3,000 a day. Earlier, the license fee used to be only Rs. 1500, but this policy was cancelled. Also in consideration is reducing the minimum distance required from religious places of worship from 50 mtrs to 30 mtrs.
The department has also apparently assured the producers that in order to improve the ease of working, the excise department will be brought under ‘Right of Services’ which means that all applications and queries will have to be attended within a predefined reasonable period and any objections must be brought to the notice of the applicant within this time.
The government has taken cognisance of the fact that wine production can be up to 12 times more beneficial to the farmer and any increase in wine consumption will result in better income for the farmers who will be the direct beneficiaries of the policy, besides making the State continue being dynamic and most pragmatic in the country. Formation of a Wine Board on the line of Karnataka Wine Board is also under consideration.
As expected, the opposition party in Maharashtra (BJP) has criticised the government's decision of allowing sale of wine in supermarkets, making a rather juvenile but political statement that ‘the state government is dedicated to drunkards,’ according to the report.
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